Landlords should use accredited letting agents rather than taking the cheaper option of advertising for tenants on websites, a television documentary advises.

Paul Shamplina, founder of eviction specialist Landlord Action, hosted a recent episode of Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords, in which he explored what happened when one landlord let her property through a listings website.

Vicki McNaught was initially delighted when a young professional, who claimed to be privately educated and have a successful job in the City, moved into her flat - but before long, he stopped paying rent.

She said: "We've learnt that bad tenants are more likely to target sites because they hope they will be subjected to fewer checks.

"In the future, we'd always go through an agent - although even this has no guarantee. It's the law that needs to change to make landlords less vulnerable to unscrupulous tenants."

Mr Shamplina said: “This guy is a serial bad tenant. He has been evicted previously after running up costs of £30,000 in unpaid rent and stolen furniture from an overseas landlord. In Vicky’s case, he used false references to secure the property.”

He says the example should serve as a serious warning to landlords about using classified websites to advertise their property to rent.

“We’ve come across many similar cases in the past where we see serial bad tenants prey on less experienced landlords who let their properties on consumer websites," he said.

"Unfortunately, the majority of these landlords are deceived by well educated con artists.

"With absolutely nothing in place to safeguard landlords, they find themselves in all sorts of trouble."

He warns landlords already using such sites to be careful, and ensure thorough referencing checks are done.

He said: "Look out for the telltale signs of a serial bad tenant. For example, are you being rushed by the tenant for them to move in as soon as possible?”

The twelve part series on Channel 5 aims to examine the buy-to-let market and reveal some of the complexities landlords and tenants face on a daily basis.